By Helena Tavares Kennedy
Finding a job during tough times is often hard to do, causing potential employees to reach out to head hunters or recruiters to help them obtain what few jobs may be available in their particular area of expertise. On the other hand, employers often have to pay headhunters a fee for finding top quality candidates for the most in demand positions or hire a human resources professional or recruiter to help them fill their open positions with top quality candidates. So how can an organization help both?
That’s where nonprofit organization, The Skillsource Group Inc., comes in. According to Executive Director David Hunn, “Our primary focus is to bring employers and jobseekers together, helping employers find and hire the best candidates and for jobseekers to be successful in finding employment and growing a career, all while earning wages that will support sustaining a family.”
How It All Began
SkillSource Group has actually been around for a while. “In 2001, with the creation of the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, board members wanted to create a non-profit organization that supported local and regional workforce efforts that could bring additional resources to a local workforce effort,” Hunn said. The board hired Hunn in 2002 to help create and build the nonprofit, and he has been there ever since.
From the beginning, the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board worked closely with local government agencies to help with the implementation and integration of Skillforce Group activities with ongoing workforce services. The board works specifically with Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties; the cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, and Manassas and Manassas Park. Once becoming a formal IRS approved non-profit in 2006, the organization was up and running.
George Harben, the director of existing business for Prince William County Department of Economic Development, helps connect companies in Prince William to SkillSource. “SkillSource helps companies that don’t have large human resource departments find the people they need. Not all companies have a big HR department to go out and find people.”
What SkillSource Offers
One of the tools employers can use is the SkillSource database of resumes, where they can search resumes for specific skills, languages, and so on. SkillSource also counsels people who are seeking jobs by offering tips on ways to improve resumes and the use of their computers and printers as well as hosting job fairs. “SkillSource tries to match jobs with people and people with jobs, and it’s great that it’s free for both employers and employees,” Harben said.
Kristi Sargent, who has worked as Prince William SkillSource Center manager for over six years, said, “If you walk into a SkillSource Center, you are looking to find something good. Looking for a job is a full-time job, and our centers are the connection between you and the employers hiring.” She encourages people to come in, communicate their needs to the staff and take advantage of all the free resources and opportunities that the center has to offer, such as free e-employment classes, free computer usage including printing, faxing and scanning, and the expertise of highly trained staff.
One Prince William County resident who has taken advantage of SkillSource Group’s service, Mr. Thomas, was laid off from his job as a principal installation specialist of fiber optics in 2014. He was referred to SkillSource’s Northern Virginia J4VETS program for training services and job development geared towards veterans. He took advantage of the many resources available to him in the program. Mr. Thomas obtained in-demand IT certifications (Security +, Cisco Certified Network Associate, and ITIL Foundation) through J4VETS that landed him a position as a senior network administrator with a starting salary that was a 22.4 percent increase in pay.
SkillSource Group has a variety of programs, some with certain eligibility requirements. For example, “for Federal workforce programs, there are certain eligibility requirements in place, such as low educational attainment or recently unemployed. Other programs are targeted for specific populations, such as veterans, like the one Mr. Thomas used to find his new job, adults with a disability, and jobseekers with a criminal background or other employment obstacles,” Hunn said.
“Our largest program, by both spending and jobseeker participation, is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Adult and Dislocated Worker program; SkillSource is on track to serve hundreds of jobseekers this year meeting these eligibility requirements and is assisting these jobseekers with additional skills training, certifications earned and job search assistance,” Hunn said.
Sam Hill, campus provost at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) said, “SkillSource also provides data and information on skills trends and business needs that the college can act on to keep our educational and training current and responsive to the needs of the community.”
Connecting Thousands of People
According to Hunn, “The SkillSource Group oversees two workforce centers in Prince William County; the largest is located at 13370 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge, 22192. The second center is located on the NOVA Manassas Campus in Parrish Hall. In total, the Prince William Workforce Center has 38 employees and is expected to have over 14,000 jobseeker visits during the July – June fiscal year with another 300 visits at the center on the NOVA Manassas Campus. Within that total, SkillSource and its partners have enrolled nearly 270 jobseekers into our Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, targeting low skilled adults or workers who have lost their jobs for assistance in finding new employment.”
What may surprise you is that because SkillSource Group is part of a larger state and national network, they must follow “rigorous state and national standards and are closely monitored to assure compliance and measurements of their outcomes,” Hunn said.
Tough times several years ago led to peak season at SkillSource Group. Over 100,000 jobseeker visits were recorded to the center during the economic recession in 2011. Those numbers have gradually declined since then as the regional economy improved. Statistically, data also shows that the more education and skills that jobseekers have, the shorter their unemployment would likely last, but those with fewer skills or less education, unemployment could last much longer.
How They Do It
So how does SkillSource provide all these programs and services to connect employees and employers? According to Dunn, “The SkillSource Group and the Northern Virginia Workforce Development Board receive funding to operate our centers and provide services from Congress and the U.S. Department of Labor, passed through the Governor of Virginia. We also actively compete for additional grants and contracts from federal and state partner agencies to provide even more services to our Northern Virginia customers. Our services are free and are part of a public service to the Northern Virginia community.”
However, SkillSource is a non-profit organization, not government organization, so contributions from the community are always welcome. You can donate securely online at donatenow. networkforgood.org/1437337.
Helena Tavares Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and nonprofit communications director who has lived in Manassas for over 15 years.